extrinsic motivation: why carrots and sticks don’t work

Daniel Pink is an american author that writes books about “the changing world of work”. (

In this speach, Daniel Pink talks about a common misconception about motivtion in the work world.

Motivational Psychology distinguishes two kinds of Motivators: Extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

Daniel Pink explains why it’s unprofitable to use extrinsic motivators(rewards, punishment) for tasks, that require creativity and innovative thinking.

He believes that intrinsic motivation and better performance is possible through three key elements:

1. Autonomy

2. Mastery

3. Purpose

The three elemets can increase the feeling of self-efficiacy, a key element in motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation can be described by any action that is is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, rather than an external stimuli.

Studies show that there is a strong correlation between intrinsic motivation and higher performances. (more information on

The higher your intrinisic motivation, the better your performance (be it in sports, school or work)

I played soccer for many years. Sometimes our coach was pretty easy on us, but most of us he made us go through hell. Still, nobody complained because we loved it so much. We had the feeling we could reach something if we only practiced hard enough.

School wasn’t that easy for me. I had big problems understanding why I should study physics, even though I knew I would never use it. I hated it and the only reason why Istudied for the exam was the fear of getting my ass kicked after a failed exam. I only met the minimum requirements.

I strongly believe that teachers, coaches,superiors or we ourselves can improveĀ  performances by a higher intrinsic motivation.

Besides Daniel Pink’s approach, there are several methods on how to improve intrinsic motivation. Leppel and Hodell (1989) named and tested four factors, that increase intrinsic motivation: (teacher – student relationship for better understanding)

- Challenge (The given tasks should be challenging, not to hard and not to easy.)

- Curiosity (The teacher should show the student knowledge gaps and room for improvement. This way he can arouse the student’s curiosity.)

- Control (The teacher should give the student the feeling of beeing part of the process, by agreeing on common goals and class contents.)

- Fantasy (The teacher can bring class contents alive by appealing to students phantasy. Where can this knowledge be used? why is it important? Be playful)

There is one more critical factor about intrinsic motivation.

Deci (1971) found out that people are less likely to repeat an action they do out of pure interest and get paid for it afterwards.

Extrinsic motivation blocks the performance of people that are intrinsicly motivated.

I believe that extrinsic motivation is very necessary from time to time. But if you want to improve your performances and have more fun in the long run, than leave your carrots and sticks at home.

Any contributions or criticism? Please feel free to comment!

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